by Zahid Fayyaz
This new play is a real treat. Written by and starring Waleed Akhtar, it is a duologue looking at the burgeoning love story between two Pakistani men. Played by Akhtar, Bilal is a young gay Muslim man who has responded to schoolyard bullying by hitting the gym and trawling Grindr for casual hook ups. There are hints of him of him wanting more, but he pushes it down every time
The other character in the play is Zafar, an asylum seeker who has fled his violently homophobic family in Pakistan. Played with tenderness and charisma by Esh Alladi, his story is the one with an aching sadness throughout.
The show starts off with the two characters separated, monologuing their own stories. They then meet, and the script turns into more of a dialogue between the two of them. It touches wonderfully on the British-Pakistani identity, the difficulties of coming out in both cultures, current Bollywood dramas and the evils and cruelty of the current British asylum-seeking policy. At times sad and moving, it also moves along at a cracking pace, with laugh-out-loud moments and witty dialogue.
At 90 minutes long, the play sometimes fails to give some aspects of the characters enough time to develop. However, the acting is of a high standard throughout, and its an emotional and important play that’s well worth watching.
The P Word runs through 22 October.
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